Legon Adamant About Road Tolls

Ernest-Aryeetey-newEfforts by government to address the road tolls controversy at the University of Ghana has hit a snag as the university authorities says the tolls would still be charged on its roads at the Legon campus in Accra, even if the government pays for the cost of its recent road reconstruction.

According to the university authorities, apart from the need for revenue to pay off a GHc8million loan facility used to rehabilitate the roads, the university needed money to maintain the roads.

At a meeting at the Ministry of Finance on Thursday between the authorities and the government side, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Ernest Aryeetey, is said to have maintained that the university would not halt the road tolls.

The meeting, jointly chaired by Cassiel Ato Forson, a deputy Minister of Finance, was called at the instance of President Mahama, for the two sides to find an amicable solution to the impasse generated by the recent imposition of road tolls by the university.

Those as the meeting included Alhaji Amin Amidu Sulemani, Minister of Roads and Highways, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, a deputy Minister of Education, a State Attorney representing the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, and two representatives from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority and National Council for Tertiary Education. The Vice Chancellor was accompanied by the university’s counsel and Public Relations Officer.

A source at the meeting told the Ghanaian Times that Prof. Aryeetey indicated at the meeting that the project cost about GHc10.2million which it needed to recoup though the tolling system.

In addition, the source said the Vice Chancellor explained that the tolls had be continue even after government had provided the money because it was also being used to control vehicular traffic since the tolls would discourage people from using the campus as a thoroughfare.

Apart from the revenue to be generated from the tolls for the maintenance of the road, the Vice Chancellor, the source said, indicated the revenue would assist to undertake “infrastructure expansion” projects.

But the university’s position, the source said, baffled the government side because the university had given the impression that the tolling was being used to generate funds to pay off the loan.

“It is clear that the government’s offer will not stop the university from collecting the toll,” the source said, adding that the meeting ended inconclusively.

Asked about the next possible move by the government, the source noted that the President had to be briefed first on the outcome of the meeting for the next step to be taken.

The university began the toll collection on February 1, 2014, amidst controversy over the propriety of the action.
Although Parliament said it finds nothing wrong with the action of the university, which is autonomous, the government has opposed the charging of the tolls, with the Chief of Staff advising the university to rescind its decision.
The Chief of Staff, acting on the instruction of the President, directed the Ministries and Finance and Roads and Highways to discuss the issue with the university with the aim of government absorbing the cost of reconstruction.
Amidst the agitation against the tolls, the student body planned a demonstration to pressure the authorities to back down on the toll collection, but the demonstration was called off because the university announced the exemption of students with vehicles, from paying the toll.

But the students continue to complain that the imposition of the toll has led to an astronomical increase in transport fare to the university campus.

Two students of the University have also sued the institution at the Supreme Court over the decision by authorities to the charge tolls.
The two who brought the action in their capacity as Ghanaians are praying the Supreme Court to stop the university from charging the said road tolls.
The manual collection of the tolls, continue to create high motor traffic at the various entry points to the university campus, causing inconvenience to motorists, and especially the students.

Private cars pay GHc 1, while commercial cars and trucks pay GHc 2 and GHc 3 respectively. By Edmund Mingle

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